Half of Children With Autism Can Be Diagnosed At Close To One Year Of Age

Earlier this month, researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, found that autism can be diagnosed at close to one year of age. The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, evaluated “social and communication development in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) from 14 to 36 months of age”, and revealed that approximately half of all children with autism can be diagnosed around the first birthday. Researchers followed children for up to 36 months, and found that about half those diagnosed at 30 or 36 months has been diagnosed at 14 months.

The researchers at Kennedy Krieger's Center for Autism identified the following signs of developmental disruptions for which parents and pediatricians should be watching:

Abnormalities in initiating communication with others (for example, failure to ask for help when opening a jar). A child with ASD may struggle to open it themselves and never look at the nearby person.

Compromised ability to initiate and respond to opportunities to share experiences with others. A child with ASD may likely miss cues that are important for shared experiences and engagement with others. This phenomenon is significant because it is during this type of engaged play that most children have prolonged opportunities to learn new words and also have emotionally satisfying experiences with their parent.

Irregularities when playing with toys: Instead of using a toy as it is designed to be used, such as picking up a toy fork and pretending to eat with it, children with ASD may perform an unusual act with the toy instead of trying to eat with it.

Children with ASD may have a much smaller inventory of sounds, words and gestures that they use to communicate with others.

The study further reveals that autism often involves a progression, with the disorder claiming or presenting itself between 14 and 24 months of age. The researchers observed distinct differences in the developmental paths of children with early versus later diagnosis of ASD. Some children developed very slowly and displayed social and communication abnormalities associated with ASD at 14 months of age; however, other children showed only mild delays and a gradual onset of autism symptoms, culminating in the diagnosis of ASD by 36 months.

Early diagnosis of the disorder allows for early intervention, which can make a major difference in helping children with autism reach their full potential. The article quotes Dr. Gary Goldstein, President and CEO of the Kennedy Krieger Institute as saying, "What's most exciting about these important advancements in autism diagnosis is that ongoing intervention research leads us to believe it is most effective and least costly when provided to younger children," and "When a child goes undiagnosed until five or six years old, there is a tremendous loss of potential for intervention that can make a marked difference in that child's outcome."

While there are currently no standardized, published criteria for diagnosing children with autism at around one year of age, the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s goal is to develop criteria based on this and other autism studies, and these criteria will be shared in an upcoming report. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are the nation's fastest growing developmental disorders, with current incidence rates estimated at 1 in 150 children.

“Half Of Children With Autism Can Be Accurately Diagnosed At Close To One Year Of Age, New Study Shows.” Science Daily, July 5, 2007.

See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070703172350.htm.

Added by Bob Jarvis.